Way down the red dirt road, past the house that sells goats, where your cell phone doesn’t work, we use a lot of things other people forgot about. Rotary phones. Clothes lines. Out here, florist flowers are for funerals only.
But we have cut flowers by the armload, by the bucket or vase-full.
Momma still takes flowers from the yard to take to church on Sunday. Well, before Covid she did. On Saturday evening we’d cut whatever looked good, let them rest in water and take them up early Sunday morning. I don’t even go to church. But I sure do miss that and it makes me sad that she has to miss it too.
Bouquets of fragrant country flowers bring memories and tie us to the old ways. Black-eyed Susan, and blue hydrangea, cat whiskers and cast iron plant.
Now there are people further on down the road, in the swamp who still have real, real country flowers; cartwheel lily, hot water flower, jewels of Opar and dog fennel.
But the most obscure, most country bumpkin flower name I ever heard, has to be from way down Gum Swamp Road.
Chicken feet flowers. Put the ugly raw image out your head. Imagine the girls with their toe nails painted bright pink, fluffy feathers, tarted-up-for Sa’dny-night beautiful chicken feet.
I”m telling you, not even in a high-tone flower shop in AT-Lan-Taa, uptown, will you find a more elegant, architectural stem. Practically mo´durn. Hunkered down in old lady country gardens long enough, it’s time for chicken feet flowers to come out.
Unlike their salty-fried name sake, which will make you drink a ton of tea, chicken feet flowers don’t even need water. Thats right. You cut them and drop them in a vase. Or tin can. Or a plastic bleach bottle with the top cut off. No floral gel or funky recipes with pennies or Seven up. They’ll last for weeks.
Now that’s you’ve discovered them, help me out. Do they need an updated cool name? Is it even ethical to re-name something just so that we can sell them? How about Fairy Wand Flowers? Or something timely pulled from a Disney movie?
In one way, we already change them. Check out Tom’s Forth of July Flowers. With the right spray paint, they could do a Lady Gamecock Chicken Foot Bouquet. Or a Tiger-Caught-a-Chicken-Foot Flowers.
I know yall. I’ve been off the farm
and seen the world and I know that you all know a lot. You are urbanity-defined. Sophisticating, a subscriber to Oxford American, Garden & Gun AND watcher of documentaries — especially about deep south country stuff. You probably wonder why you’ve never heard of these.
Maybe there’s some anthropologist working on it right now. More likely some therapist is working on why I like telling these stories. Right now (and for the past 15 years). You see, I’ve just told you a good one, a big one, a story I pulled right out of my little country-boy head.
I made up Chicken Feet Flowers. They’re just old crinum stems left after flowers fade. They make seed and fall over in the mud if they could. A business advisor, all the way from Chicago, told me that we had to figure a way to sell our excess flowers. Yall know I put a lot of stock in what smart ladies from Chicago have to say about our farm.
But the truth is that when I put these things in a vase, when I tell that little story, everybody falls for chicken feet flowers.